Design Tips: Getting Started

Ready to decorate? Get the design process started with these smart steps for creating a plan.


10 Steps for Creating a Design Plan

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1. Seek inspiration by tearing pages from magazines and catalogs; printing images from websites; and considering what attracts you to favorite objects, destinations, and even restaurants.

2. Review what you have to work with in the space, from furniture to fixtures. Ask yourself: What should I remove, recycle, or repurpose in my design?

3. Draw a floor plan, photograph walls straight on for future reference, and jot down all window measurements.

4. Decide what mood or look you want the room to project and how you will use the room. Now's the time to plan for storage and organization.

5. Decide which color will dominate on the walls, floor, and ceiling. Consider where patterns, colors, and finishes might appear in fabrics and on furniture. Think about accent colors.

6. Start a budget spreadsheet. Work in a 20-percent cushion for unexpected repairs or delivery fees.

7. Go on a fact-finding mission. Shop around, sleuthing in stores and online for products and prices.

8. Weed, prune, and pare down your ideas and selections. Transfer these ideas to a board with floor and wall plans. Step back and review. Then create your master design plan.

9. Recruit your dream team. Line up installers and repair professionals.

10. Set the schedule. Take into account delivery lead times and allow for possible delays.

Tools for You

Browse the Decorating Gallery for inspiration.

Use Arrange-a-Room to plan furniture arrangements.

Try out paint colors in My Color Finder.

Think Like a Decorator

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With a plan in place, keep these designer and decorator tricks in mind:

Add weight. Increase the visual weight of a too-small dining chair with a slipcover. Need a preview? Drape fabric over the chair.

Group dynamics. Two small tables provide symmetry and create the weight of one large coffee table.

Surprise subtly. Look for objects that barely break symmetry, such as three of one thing.

Go big with less space. A large headboard delivers a grand focal point and requires only 4 inches of depth.

Use contrast. In a neutral color scheme, for example, choose hues that range from dark brown to pale ivory to add rhythm.

Keep Going

Seeking inspiration and reading advice from the pros will continue to help you in your decorating process. Learn tricks from some of our favorite designers, decorators, and experts here:

Answers to Common Questions About Color

Tips and Tricks from Design Pros

Decorate with What You Have

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